Fall has arrived and there is a lot going on both politically and here at State headquarters. I usually try to keep my column to just one topic, but I am going to stray a little since there is a lot to talk about this month.
I believe the voter’s pamphlet does a great job explaining the current law and how if passed how this initiative will work, there are arguments for and against as well as a fiscal note that I suggest before you cast your vote you take the time to review.
First, I want to let everyone know we have set the dates for Grange Legislative Days this year. We will be holding a two-day event on February 17-18. Since that Monday is a holiday for some people, we are hoping it will make the event more feasible to attend. Again this year we will setting individual appointments with legislators and having briefings on issues and topics relevant to Grange. If you want to meet with your legislator this year, you will need to RSVP early. Legislative calendars fill up fast and there will be several groups vying for those dates. Registration forms will be on the website and in the Grange News in November.
The second important topic I need to cover is the many questions and phone calls I am getting on the I-522 food labeling initiative. To be perfectly clear, Washington State Grange is neutral on this particular initiative. Our current policy supports a national labeling program of genetically engineered foods and suggests further research is needed on the safety of genetically engineered foods. We do not support or oppose a State labeling program. Everyone should make their own decision on the issue and vote accordingly. However, since I have been asked on an almost daily basis for my thoughts I will give you the pros and cons how I see them.
I will start with the pros. There has been a lot of discussion over the last few years about the safety of genetically engineered foods. This initiative makes an effort at helping the consumer identify which products contain genetically engineered products. The initiative also scientifically defines what genetic engineered is for the labeling requirements.
Now for the cons with the initiative. For those of you that attended the last day of our state convention in Ocean Shores you may remember I spoke briefly about some of the exemptions within the initiative that concerned me. For example, food sold in restaurants or deli type counters are exempt. I am also troubled that while fruit juice has to be labeled, alcoholic beverages do not. Certified organic is another exemption that makes me scratch my head. If we are going to label our food, shouldn’t we be labeling all of our food? I personally would prefer something listed in the ingredients and then I can make my own decision if that particular genetically engineered food item is something I want to eat.
The other issues include the possible litigation and legal concerns I have for farmers. The civil penalty against any person violating the law can amount to one thousand dollars per day. And, finally, the Washington State Academy of Sciences recently released report stated that it is unclear how much food prices would increase.